If you’ve failed to pay court-ordered support in Colorado, the court can charge you with contempt of court. If it finds you guilty, it will require you to pay a fine or send you to jail. Here’s how contempt works in Colorado family law.
What is contempt of court?
A contempt charge is a courts way of punishing you for not following the orders, directions, or rules of the court.
A court can charge you with contempt for things like refusing to answer a question, not filing papers on time, not following the rules of the court, or any other act of noncompliance with the court. In family law, contempt charges often involve nonpayment of support. With a contempt charge, the court can punish you for not paying the child or spousal support it ordered you to pay. Possible punishments include a fine or imprisonment.
How can I get my ex charged with contempt?
If the court has ordered your ex to pay you support and he or she has not paid, you can request that the court issue a charge of contempt. Here’s a summary of what you’ll need to do.
- Complete two court forms. Complete forms Verified Motion and Affidavit for Citation for Contempt of Court (JDF 1816) and Order to Issue Citation and Citation to Show Cause (JDF 1817). You must sign JDF 1816 in front of a notary public or a court clerk.
- File the forms with the court. Send or bring the forms to the court along with a self-addressed stamped envelope for the court to send the documents back to you. After the court reviews the documents, the clerk will contact you to set a date for a hearing.
- Notify the person who hasn’t paid. You’ll have to notify the person who owes you support about the hearing, but you can hire a process server to do it for you. You’ll have to file paperwork with the court proving that you did this.
- Go to the hearing. You must appear at the hearing, and you can have an attorney go with you. You’ll have to bring your paperwork showing that you haven’t received the ordered support. Depending on the type of punishment the court considers, the issue may not be resolved at the initial hearing – additional hearings may be needed.
You can get the required forms as well as detailed instructions for filling them out in the Forms section of the website of the Judicial Branch of Colorado.
How do I prove that my ex hasn’t paid support?
In Colorado, under Colorado Revised Statute 14-14-10(1), you can prove that your ex hasn’t paid using:
- an affidavit that you sign under penalty of perjury saying that he or she hasn’t paid
- your records of nonpayment, certified by the court clerk, or
- the Family Support Registry’s (FSR) records of nonpayment.
The Family Support Registry is a state-run organization that helps families get the support a court ordered them to receive. The mission of the FSR is to track down support payments. If you have a court order for support but you’re not receiving payments, you might try contacting the FSR before filing a requesting a contempt charge. The FSR website is https://childsupport.state.co.us.
What should I do if I get charged with contempt?
If the court has charged you with contempt for not paying court-ordered support, your best move is to pay the amount you owe. If you do, when considering the contempt charge – and any punishment -- the court can take your payment into account. The court can also take into account that you cannot pay because of physical incapacity or another “good cause.” If you want to argue that you did not pay because you cannot pay, consider getting help from a lawyer so that you can make the best possible argument. The court may have to provide a lawyer for you if the person requesting the contempt order also requested that you be punished with jail time and you cannot afford hire a lawyer for yourself.
If you do not show up for your contempt hearing, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
Learn More About Contempt in Colorado
You can read Colorado’s laws about contempt for nonpayment of support in Colorado Revised Statute 14-14-10(1). Colorado posts its statutes online through LexisNexis at this address: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/colorado/.
Contact the Family Support Registry to help you make support payments or to track down payments owed to you. And get more free legal information about Colorado Divorce and Family Law on Divorcenet.com.